Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is 5¢ per day a lot of money?

At its December 2, 2014 meeting, the Board of Municipal Utilities voted to increase water rates by three percent both this summer and next. (Here's a piece about it: That’s a lower increase than most utilities in Ohio and across the country see each year (nationally, water rates are increasing at nearly 5 percent annually). Why? Avon Lake Regional Water’s focus on regionalization. Because we sell water to other communities, we distribute much of our fixed water costs among a larger user base. As a result, we are able to keep annual increases roughly in line with inflation—even though we have other rising costs in addition to inflationary ones. Therefore, regionalization and our ability to find ways to save money keep our rate increases among the country’s lowest.

On the wastewater side, our regionalization now means we get approximately 15% of the flow we treat from outside our city limits. We have a strong partnership with the Rural Lorain County Sewer District (LORCO) and are working to add customers to help save all our customers money. This coming summer, wastewater rates will increase 7% to help pay for sewer separations and to rehabilitate our wastewater treatment plant. We anticipate similar increases for the next several years as we undertake approximately $25 million in sewer separation projects and $40 million in plant rehabilitation/improvements. Note: Through an agreement with Ohio EPA, Avon Lake’s sewer separation projects must be completed by 2020. In order to help them continue to move forward, early this year we offered to stop receiving approximately $500,000 per year from the City of Avon Lake in income tax revenue so they could use it to fund stormwater improvements they would like to undertake as we give them the former combined sewers to use as storm sewers. Giving up this revenue source places the entire burden of rehabilitation and capital improvements (as well as that of operations and maintenance) on us—meaning the revenues we receive from the bills you pay. We do not receive any of your income tax dollars.

The average Avon Lake residential customer pays a total of about $1 per day for water and wastewater services. The combined increases coming this summer for water and wastewater rates will increase your out of pocket expenses by about 5¢ per day ($20 per year). If you want to offset that increase, you need only decrease your daily water usage by 10 gallons. Run clothes and dishwashers only when full. Turn off the sink when brushing teeth and shaving. Wash dishes in a dishwasher rather than hand washing under running water. Have each family member take a shorter shower. Reduce toilet flushing volumes by placing a rock in the toilet tank. Irrigate a little less. Switch showerheads and other fixtures to low-flow varieties. These are all things that can save enough water to offset the additional expense of this rate increase. (Watch vids here to learn more:

We work hard to keep your rates as low as practical and provide you with high-value services. Recently, the 2013 Ohio EPA Sewer and Water Rate Survey was published. Avon Lake residents’ water bills rank in the bottom 1% statewide, and wastewater bills rank in the bottom 10%. When Avon Lake’s water and wastewater bills are compared to those of other cities with a population of 20,000 to 30,000 (like ours), Avon Lake bills are the lowest. In fact, Avon Lake residents save more than $500 per year compared to the average water and wastewater bill in those cities. No one likes rising rates, but that’s the world we live in—and at least you live a city where the water is so comparatively inexpensive you are already saving $500 every year. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What is the value of water?

In early August, Thomas Fuller's words, "We never know the worth of water till the well is dry,"  became abundantly clear for 500,000 greater Toledoans. Last week, USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy referenced the Toledo incident in a speech in front of 18,000 water professionals saying, "It's 2014, folks, 2014, in the most prosperous nation on Earth. Yet for two full days, thousands of families couldn't access life's most basic necessity. Now this is what one would call a wake-up call."

Water: Essential to life and economic prosperity. Don't think so? Try living without it. Think about industry. What industry would exist without water? Almost every major city was founded where it was due to access to water. Not only did ancient Rome have a god of fresh water and the sea—Neptune—but they also had a goddess of the sewers—Cloacina. (An aside: Cloacina was also the protector of sexual intercourse in marriage. Perhaps Romans recognized both reproduction and proper disposal of wastewater were equally vital for the human race?)


Yet, despite water’s undeniable value, the average U.S. citizen only pays about $2.75 a day for water and wastewater service for his/her family. (Reference:, That is probably about the same as what that person pays for cell phone service.

That said, this blog is not about wanting you to feel good about the price you pay for water service. This is written to encourage you to do your part to protect what is essential to life—your water. Here in Northeast Ohio, that means protecting Lake Erie and all its tributaries, but our actions combined can make a big impact beyond our region, too. Your part goes beyond proper fertilizer application and making sure your mower blade is not set too low. It goes past buying water- and energy-efficient fixtures and appliances, irrigating only when necessary, and using sound watering principles. Your part really starts with using the power of the purse—buying products that protect or improve the environment, as well as supporting companies who do the same. Your part means asking yourself if you really need to buy bottled water, which consumes a lot more water to produce than each bottle actually contains. Add to that the unrecoverable fossil fuels consumed and pollution emitted by the trucks that bring that water to market, the plastic bottles that will end up in landfills (still around 70% of those sold), and the energy consumed to store and sell that water… then ask if that bottled water is really worth it. Your part also includes a more active role in the political process—voting for politicians that support clean water and making sure those politicians make and pass laws that do just that.

In writing this, I am standing high on my soap box, expressing opinions that are not necessarily the official view of my organization. I don't expect you to feel as strongly as I do. Gandhi said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." I am only asking you to consider my words, reflect on them, and decide what change in this world you want to help effect. Hopefully, you’ll add our water supply to your list of important causes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Are you passionate about Lake Erie?

Did you come to the Lake Erie WaterFest at Miller Park this past weekend? If you did, we hope you liked it. If you didn't, you missed out on a great event.

The underlying goal of WaterFest was to help sensitize people to the benefits and plight of Lake Erie. Living here beside 20 percent of the world's fresh surface-water supply can make us take things for granted. Lake Erie contains about 130 trillion gallons of water—a sizeable amount by any standard and one that you think would be hard to pollute. However, when about 13 million to 26 million pounds of phosphorus along with a host of other pollutants enter the lake each year, even 130 trillion gallons can be affected.

Lake Erie is vital to us in countless ways. Therefore, its protection is also vital to us. The water we drink comes from Lake Erie. Avon Lake Regional Water removes contaminants so that the water is safe to drink. The more polluted it is, the more it costs to treat; and these costs are passed on to you through the rates we charge. Living on the lake, all of us enjoy the lake in our own ways. Swimming, fishing, boating, birding, picture taking, and sunsetting are just some of the ways we enjoy the lake. Each of these are diminished in some way as the lake becomes more polluted.

On a macroeconomic scale, Lake Erie is home to an $11.5 billion per year tourism industry. Additionally, steel mills and other heavy manufacturing originally started here because of the lake. As water stress becomes more pronounced in other parts of the country, the region has the opportunity to bring industry back. Some cities are already promoting their bounty of water. Milwaukee has taken it a step farther and is trying to spur innovation as a water technology hub: Cleveland has recently given approval for a $700 million development project along the lake:

Back to the WaterFest. Each of the activities was centered around our uses of the lake. More than 100 of us, my wife and I included, took part in Avon Lake's first triathlon. We swam in Lake Erie and then biked and ran along the lake. Many—young and old alike—tried out kayaking and paddleboarding at the Miller Road Park beach. The grins on their faces were huge. The fishing demonstrations were busy throughout the day, and some even caught their first fish ever. Artisans sold nature-inspired art. I believe the lake theme provides a sense of peace and identity to which we all can relate. The organizations tasked with protecting Lake Erie were able to share their missions with  about 1,000 WaterFest attendees while keeping the kids entertained.

Lake Erie is important to us all. Individually, none of us can do enough alone to protect it. Collectively, we can assure that Lake Erie remains the treasure that it is. So, please do your part. Thanks for coming to the Lake Erie WaterFest. We hope to see you next year.

Avon Lake Regional Water is your water and wastewater service provider. Questions/comments? Contact us via phone (440-933-6226), email (, social media (Facebook: /avonlakewater and Twitter @avonlakewater), or in person (201 Miller Road). You can also learn more by watching our semi-monthly Board Recap Show on ALC-TV’s government channel (Time Warner 12 or WOW! 21) or logging on to to see recap shows or Board meetings.